This is in todays Morning Star Newspaper:
Vipers sputter in showdown
By Kevin Mitchell - Vernon Morning Star
Published: December 20, 2008
Give round one of the holiday mini series to the Salmon Arm SilverBacks.
The top-rated team in the Canadian Junior A Hockey League rung up an early 2-0 lead and hung on for a 4-3 win over the Vernon Vipers before 2,700 fans Friday night at the Wesbild Centre.
The same two teams battled Saturday night, and after taking a Christmas break, resume their great rivalry Monday, Dec. 29 at the Sunwave Centre. The four-game set closes the next night in Vernon.
Salmon Arm, who were a step faster than the Vipers most of the night, improved to 28-7-1-1, ensuring a spot in the BCHL’s Interior Conference penthouse for Christmas.
The Vipers, whose powerplay could only muster one goal on seven cracks, fell to 25-9-1-2, five points behind the Gorillas.
“I think we played better in the third and kind of gave ourselves a chance to win there at the end,” said Viper captain Chris Crowell, who buried a gorgeous spin-around pass in the low slot from Braden Pimm to pull Vernon within a goal with 3:32 remaining.
“The first two periods weren’t what we needed to knock them off. The first two, we kind of stood around and watched instead of going out and playing our game and not worrying about them, for the most part. Yah, they’re a good team, but I think we gave them too much respect tonight.”
Keenan Desmet, on a couple of nifty moves in tight, opened the SilverBacks’ offence seven minutes in, his 19th of the year. Bobby Lipsett scored a shorthanded wrister under Viper goalie Andrew Hammond’s left shoulder two minutes later.
“We got off to a good start definitely and they came pretty hard,” said first star Mark Zengerle, who finished with 1+2. “They had some chances at the end, but we held them off. Both teams played pretty good. I think our start was the difference.”
Bryce Kakoske buried a backhander on a scramble three minutes into the second period to get the Vipers’ attack going, but Zengerle restored Salmon Arm’s two-goal lead seven minutes later, taking a feed from third star Ashford McMaster down low.
The Vipers outshot the Gorillas 15-4 in a spirited third period which saw Travis Briard score on a powerplay just 33 seconds into the session on a deflection.
Viper defenceman Kyle Bigos countered 68 seconds later with a seeing-eye wrister from the point, Pimm drawing the powerplay assist.
“We had a bad start,” said Pimm. “It’s tough losing to them. You always want to beat Salmon Arm, especially this year because they’re ranked No. 1. At least we get them tomorrow night so that’s a bonus. We played a good third period. If we play like that for 60 minutes, we get the W. We just have to learn how to do the little things right.”
The Vipers pulled Hammond with just over a minute to play, and gained good control deep in the SilverBacks’ zone. Vernon then enjoyed a six-on-four opportunity when McMaster was called for delay of game with 34 seconds to play.
It was the second time this season the Gorillas came into Wesbild minus some prime-time talent, and pulled out a victory. Their second-leading scorer – Conor Morrison – is in Ottawa preparing to play for Germany in the World Junior Championships.
“I thought it was a pretty good game,” said Silverbacks head coach Rylan Ferster. “They obviously came out hard in the third period and I thought they took advantage of some situations and got some pucks to the net. It was like two top teams. It could have gone either way.”
Ferster said the country’s top ranking is not discussed in the Salmon Arm dressing room.
“Never, absolutely never,” said the former Vernon Laker. “We never talk about that. How can they pick that stat? For me, it means nothing. It’s only December. I want to be the No. 1 team in May.”
Ferster said the SilverBacks are committed to playing responsible in front of all-star goalie Bryan Gillis.
“I think our identity is team defence. I know we gave up a lot of shots tonight, but they had seven powerplays. We work on team defence so much and I think all the guys have bought in. That to me is the strong point of our team. In years gone past, it’s been run ‘n gun and this and that. We’re second in the league behind Vernon for goals against behind so that’s the stat we’re most proud of right now.”
And Ferster pretty much figures the SilverBacks and Vipers will likely decide the Interior title in March.
“They’re a good team. I said right from day one that I think Vernon’s the team to beat and my thoughts haven’t changed.”
Zengerle, who played prep school in Lake Placid, NY last year, was convinced by Morrison and his father, Dave Morrison, Director of Amateur Scouting for the Toronto Maple Leafs, to sign with Salmon Arm. He feels the SilverBacks have the make-up for a title run.
“We have everything. In my eyes, we’ve got skill, we’ve some grit, we’ve got toughness. We’ve got goaltending. We’ve got six, seven D and four good lines. We’re pretty deep.”